Our ‘complete capsule’ article last month went down particularly well with readers. Setting out a concentrated, versatile wardrobe, I think it provided both a good starting point for new readers and a way for older ones to realise gaps in their wardrobe.
Unusual or striking clothing can often be the most exciting to buy, but it is the foundational pieces that provide the best value in the long term.
In this follow-up article – as promised at the time – we take that wardrobe and split it into different budgets.
The aim is to suggest how much you should be spending on shoes, for example, if you buy a particular level of tailoring. And then to recommend a maker as an example.
It should enable readers to match their budgets to different providers, and map out how they could slowly build up a wardrobe like this, over a few years.
The list is not meant to be a recommendation of any single maker or brand. The ones listed are among my favourites, naturally, but are merely indicative. Assessing all the different options in each category, at each price level, would require a whole book.
That said, if you do want other recommendations, and links to information about them elsewhere on Permanent Style, do ask in the comments.
Other caveats are that the lowest budget is still quite high – that is just the nature of the quality level we cover on Permanent Style. And that there is of course nothing to stop you buying bespoke shoes, but cheap suits, if you want. In that case, this framework just serves to set out the levels you are jumping between.
Finally, it is worth keeping in mind the actual products recommended in the capsule article, here, as you read the below.
Level A (For Permanent Style, the lowest level)
£1000 to £2000
Level B (What I tend to buy)
£2400 to £3000
Bespoke, though not the top end. Still unparalleled fit, but perhaps without the finer finishing, high-end retail or European manufacture, which all bring down the price. Sartoria Ciardi in Naples, perhaps Elia Caliendo for more frequency but higher price. (And if these weren’t jackets aimed at being worn with jeans, Whitcomb & Shaftesbury.)
Level C (Price is no object, but quality is)
£3500 to £5000
The best bespoke tailors in the world. The finest of finishing, international service and retail. Which would be the likes of Cifonelli, Liverano or Michael Browne. But actually, there are no soft-shouldered makers at this level, being mostly from Naples. So someone like Ciardi or Caliendo would still fit best.
£200 to £300
Altered ready-to-wear trousers. A good make, perhaps ranging from Berg & Berg to someone like Anderson & Sheppard, with £50 or so set aside to alter the waist and maybe the leg line. This is all most people need – though it does depend on how unusual your body shape is.
£250 to £400
Lower level bespoke, or good made to measure. Personally I’d recommend the former for smarter trousers – like Whitcomb & Shaftesbury for example – but MTM from someone like Stoffa for more casual trousers. If nothing else, because brands like Stoffa use, and often develop, materials that are better suited to casual trousers.
£500 to £1000
Top-end bespoke. Although it is very hard to make a case for paying the top level for just trousers. The fit won’t necessarily be better, and the only thing you’re obviously getting for your money is a finer finish, or more finishing. If price were no object, as it isn’t in this Level, I might look at someone like Camps de Luca, or Richard James, both of whom made me superb trousers as parts of suits. Also Ambrosi on the basis of fit.
£150 to £200
As with trousers, I think you can get a long way with finding ready-made shirts that work for you, or require only small alterations. Those might be from the likes of Drake’s, Anglo-Italian, or even Permanent Style ones. The important thing with a shirt is the collar: whether it flatters the face and sits nicely with a jacket matters much more than the precise fit through the waist.
£200 to £300
Made to measure or bespoke can also be pretty inexpensive, as with Simone Abbarchi for example. And I’d put him at the bottom of this second bracket, with Luca Avitabile at the top. Either way, you’re getting a more improved, personalised fit and collar choice.
£300 to £400
As with many categories, at the very top you’re largely getting more hand work: a more beautiful object perhaps, rather than something that necessarily looks better when you wear it. Here I would go with D’Avino, or top-level 100 Hands.
£300 to £500
A good, mid-range Goodyear-welted shoe. The likes of Crockett & Jones or Carmina. This kind of shoe will reward care and polish more than cheaper shoes, but not necessarily have the refinement or top-end raw materials of shoes above it.
£800 to £1500
The best among ready-made shoes, such as an Edward Green, or perhaps something with an altered last and hand-sewn welt, like Saint Crispin’s. The latter also enables you to pick your model, of course, but usually involves a wait in the making. This is perhaps the top level of shoe anyone would need – the question whether to go higher really being one of going bespoke or not.
£3000 to £5000
Bespoke shoes are great, but they are more prone to error and really reward you over the long term – when you buy more than one, and establish a relationship with the maker. If price were really no object, I’m sure I would buy bespoke – from the likes of Yohei Fukuda or Nicholas Templeman – but I would still buy some RTW. And in fact, would be more likely to do so on casual shoes, such as those listed in the capsule collection.
£500 to £1500
Certainly ready-made at this level, with perhaps some alterations on smarter overcoats. Private White VC would be my first port of call for any outerwear other than that tailored variety. The focus should be buying quality materials, and seeking versatile pieces that will go with everything.
£2000 to £3000
As this is the level I spend at, I’d certainly get the double-breasted overcoat made bespoke. Because it makes more difference with tailoring, and because I love the fit and look of a DB bespoke coat so much. But I’d be quite happy for the other, more casual jacket – a pea coat or a raglan perhaps – to be ready-made. The bespoke piece would be from the likes of Whitcomb & Shaftesbury.
£3000 to £7000
I would delight in having the top-end coat made by Cifonelli, Liverano or Michael Browne, all of whom I love. And I might still have the pea coat made bespoke – as I had made by Davide Taub. However, it would be helpful that price was no object, as I doubt I’d make all the design decisions correctly on that pea coat the first time. As I probably didn’t with that one.
£100 to £200
Of all the categories, knitwear is probably the one where budget makes the least difference. Certainly it’s not a choice among brands – more one among materials. So at this lowest budget level, I’d look more at shetland and lambswool, from the likes of Harley or Colhay’s, and only perhaps stray into cashmere with someone like Luca Faloni.
£250 to £400
The second budget level should be enough for me to buy any cashmere, outside of big brands. Which doesn’t mean I wouldn’t still want some shetland from a style point of view, but I’d happily shop the full range of Anderson & Sheppard knitwear, for example.
£500 to £1500
Not much would change if money was no object. I would perhaps buy the occasional hand-knitted piece, but that would be about it. The only possible exception would be Loro Piana, which is horrifically expensive but where the couple of pieces I do have (bought on sale) have aged wonderfully. Certainly better than other premium brands like Brunello Cucinello or Ralph Lauren Purple Label.
Similar to knitwear – once you have a decent silk and a slip stitching up the back, there isn’t much to be gained by a higher price. I’d stick around Drake’s and Shibumi. The same goes for handkerchiefs and scarves mostly.
Gains here in terms of raw materials, bespoke and maker. Level A might be a RTW rabbit, Level B a RTW beaver, and Level C a bespoke beaver. I’d just swap Level B for bespoke rabbit if your head is hard to fit, as mine is. You could get all three from the likes of Optimo.
Here the lowest level would probably be a wooden shaft but not single stick (so the handle is a separate piece), middle level a solid stick, and top level something fancy and made for you, from the likes of Michel Heurtault.